A symbol of Italy and Italian food, risotto is a recipe that requires a particular type of rice cultivation in Italy. The grain must be large and oval, able in maintaining consistency and crunchiness under the teeth. It is important its cooking resistance, as well as its ability to release starch, to enhance the “mantecatura” phase that creates the typical risotto cream. The most suitable varieties are Carnaroli, Arborio, Rome, Baldo, S. Andrea and Vialone Nano.
Every step is important in cooking the perfect risotto, starting from the roasting of the grain. Dry or with oil or butter, the toasting helps to close the pores of the rice, keeping an optimal cooking resistance. Then you can stir the rice with wine and cook with hot liquid; once removed from the heat, you finish by stirring with Parmigiano Reggiano and butter.
When we think about aromatic rice, we often consider the exotic rice from Asia, such as Basmati from India and Jasmine from Thailand. Therefore, only a few know that in Italy too we cultivate aromatic rice with a natural scent of jasmine and white flowers. Among these we find Apollo rice, with a long and needle-like grain, and an intense aroma, perfect for rice salads and with meat and fish dishes.
The old rice law (n. 325 of 1958) classified the rices according to the size of the grain, from the shortest (called Common or Original), towards Semifino, Fino and the longest, Superfino. Today this wording classification has changed by a most current European one and by the new Italian law on rice (n. 131 of 2017): Round for small grains (up to 5.2 mm), Medium (between 5.2 and 6 mm), Long A from the long grain (above 6 mm) and oval, Long B for the long grains (above 6 mm), thin and needle-shaped.
The most famous Italian rice for making risotto, loved by chefs for its consistent grain and its cooking resistance, was selected in 1945 by Ettore De Vecchi, in Paullo, near Milan.
It takes its name from De Vecchi’s assistant, Mr. Carnaroli. He was discouraged by the poor results of cultivation, so one day he told De Vecchi: “Sir, what shall we do?”. To encourage him to carry on, Ettore replied: “We insist, I will give that rice your name if we find the quality I am looking for”.
The aging of rice is the process of preservation of paddy rice (raw rice that has yet to be transformed into edible rice) in silos that are refrigerated at low temperatures. Aging gives rice a greater consistency and cooking resistance, but the production costs are higher due to refrigerated storage. For this reason, apart from costing much more, aged rice is produced only with valuable varieties, such as Carnaroli rice (see also Carnaroli).
Risone (paddy) is the technical term to define rice harvested in the field, still raw. Paddy is covered by a not edible yellow skin, called lolla, that is eliminated during the rice processing. Paddy is dried to remove the residual moisture before being sent to the rice mill for processing (see also Cropping).
The pericarp is the outer film that wraps the grain of rice, rich in fiber, mineral salts and vegetable lipids. The pericarp protects the bud (or germ), found in the upper groove of the grain, rich in gamma oryzanol and fatty acids. The brown rice is the one that maintains the pericarp: its grain keeps all of its constituent and nutritional elements (see alsoBrown rice).
Gluten is a protein substance derived from the union of two kinds of proteins, when water and mechanical energy combine: prolamine (gliadin for wheat) and glutenin, both mainly present in the endosperm of the kernel of cereals such as wheat, spelled, rye and barley. In rice we do not find the class of proteins containing gluten, so it does not cause food allergies and intolerances and is also indicated for celiacs.
Whole-wheat red rice should not be confused with fermented red rice. The first one is a pigmented rice that is already red on the plant and it is used for food. The second one is obtained from fermentation with the yeast called Monascus purpureus, which gives the red color; it is not edible, but used for the pharmaceutical industry in the preparation of anti cholesterol supplements (see also Black Venere Rice).